Steam rolled across the platform as the train's breaks screeched in Ivan's ears. His eyes shifted nervously between the cars before him and the guards standing watch at each end of Lytkarino's station. The doors slid open with a resounding clang, and passengers crawled out; singularly, in pairs, then families grouped together in the near dark of the Russian dawn. Soldiers walked among the people, pulled some along, pushed others-- Ivan began to fear the worst.
Over the last years a tighter rein had been enforced by the core groups, breaking off any religious ties to the country. Books and documents that did not fit their view were gathered and burnt-- anyone holding them was executed on the spot. Schools taught what was prescribed, libraries closed until offensive material could be removed-- anything that spoke of free will or peace. Order was enforced violently.
Another burst of steam poured from the engine as it pulled forward, in route to Moscow. One man remained, alone and seemingly forgotten. The guards eyed him with suspicion as Ivan stepped out from the building.
"Comrade Trenton," the man's eyes grew wide for a moment as Ivan extended a hand in welcome. "I am Peter's cousin, he asked me to come."
As fast as caution allowed, he ushered the man towards the edge of the platform.
"Soldiers are thick at the station," he spoke soft and quick. "Were you able to bring the papers?"
"The manuscript was copied for you," the man, only known as Trenton, patted the small bag he carried.
"It is well." Ivan suppressed a smile as they drew near a waiting carriage, nothing more than a horse drawn cart packed with people.
Ivan spoke little as they walked the last blocks through the warehouse shanties, Trenton said nothing at all, his eyes drawn to the life around him. People lived in constant fear, wondering how they would survive from one day to the next. Silent, so as not to draw the military to their small community.
They came to a larger building, a combination school and communal dining hall. A soldier paced outside and smiled at Ivan as they passed. When he saw the stranger, his eyes widened, and he drew close.
"Is this him?" his excitement grew as the man stepped back and looked between Ivan and the guard.
"All is well, comrade," Ivan assured him. "Makael is a friend." Then he extended a hand to the young man. "Good morning cousin, all is well?"
"The others are inside," Makael's enthusiasm did not lessen, his voice but a whisper. "The children are downstairs with Petra and Yianalova." A sad look in his eyes, he continued. "They took Leonov and his family last night at the markets. Excessive goods they said."
Ivan lowered his head and silently spoke the man's name.
"He had seed for this year’s crops," the young soldier went on, "How will we feed our families. Mother wastes away even now."
"We can but have faith, cousin." Ivan's reassurance did little to brighten the man's heart. "You must go, if they find out you are with us, who will watch out for us, huh?"
Makael returned to the street, head down, as he continued his rounds of Lytkarino's empty warehouses.
As they climbed darkened stairs the sound of whispered voices became more noticeable -- questions of Leonov were foremost in the people's hearts -- but died as the two entered, weary eyes drawn to the face of the stranger. Ivan comforted the group as best he could, praying with them for Leonov's family.
"Cousins, we have a guest," he placed a hand on Trenton's shoulder and smiled. "This is the man Trenton, he brings us papers to read, and blessings should go to him."
Trenton was visibly amazed, every elder of the community must have been there. Even with the state of things, they gathered for the sake of peace. He lowered the bag off his shoulder, drew out an envelope and handed it to Ivan, then smiled as the man opened it and looked at each page with reverence.
"Cousins, Brothers, we are blessed," Ivan spoke with enthusiasm as he held the pages before him. "Not only new text, but two whole chapters, with study notes."
The people grew excited, then slowly took their seats-- eyes glued on Ivan as he began to read aloud.
"The Gospel of John, Chapter Three. . . 'There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. . . ' "
During the rise of the communist party in 1917-1927, the surpression of religion became so great that those of true faith had to smuggle biblical writing and manuscripts. At times even the smallest of religious script, a simple page of biblical writing or notes on scripture, were held with great reverance, even at the cost of one's life. In today's media there are signs of this type of surpression growing once again, but this time throughout the whole world. How long before such actions as smuggling "contraband" bibles is called for even in America?
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